St. Louis Sports Online

Eric Niederhoffer 

St. Louis SportsOnline

columnist & principal photographer

William Jefferson Clinton, the St. Louis Cardinals & Information Overkill August 1998

On my way home from Thursday night's game against the Atlanta Braves, a game in which the Cards looked as if they were going to return a favor that the Florida Marlins delivered to them not more than 24 hours earlier (NB: Marlins had beaten the Cards 7-6 after trailing 6-0 in the ninth. They lost 6-4 to the Braves after trailing 6-0 in the ninth.), I was enjoying the post-game wrap-up hosted by one of my favorite radio voices, Randy Karraker.

As listeners of KMOX radio are well aware, Karraker receives calls from the local sports fans during the show and attempts, quite successfully, to provide well informed responses. Compared to other radio personalities (Karraker may not think of himself as a personality), I find him easy to listen to and usually armed with information that would define me as ignorant.

A particular caller was concerned with the impact of pitching and situational players on the team's success, this season and over the next few years. Comments were offered on the trading of Todd Stottlemyre, potential trading of Brian Jordan, and stand-in position of John Mabry to name a few.

Karraker made some comments that resonated with me while I was passing the congestion on I-64 near the Collinsville exit (it's much better to have congestion at night after a failed attempt by the Cardinals rather than during the day when we're on our way to work or visiting loved ones).

The exchange between Karraker and the caller suggested that Todd Stottlemyre was not a good investment at his salary even though he provided "good leadership" for the ballclub (even though the Cards stand a good chance to resign him as a free agent after this season). Much better to get a non-leader who has a stronger arm with better stamina throughout the season. Likewise, at Brian Jordan's price tag of $7 million per year for two years (the type of deal that would be needed to keep him in a Cardinal uniform), we would be better off with younger players, those with proven situational performance (for those unfamiliar with the term "situational," think about having a hitter who excels at placing the ball where the fielders are not, with men on base). And consider the secondary role of John Mabry, that of an understudy who has been patiently waiting for his opportunities to be in the starting lineup everyday.

The picture forming in my mind during the drive home was one that I really didn't want to think about.

What does it take for a team to be entertaining for the typical fan? Do the fans need to know the details on each player and if they know, will that make the game more enjoyable? What should happen while I'm sitting in Busch Stadium? Should I be weighing the character profile on each player as he comes to bat or is on the field?

It reminds me of the story I heard several years ago. A young child, who had been watching a card trick for many years, finally asked his grandfather to reveal how it was performed. Now in possession of the "trick" the young person no longer approached that activity with the same youthful energy. Maybe that's the natural progression of things.

Here's my bottom line. I enjoy baseball, more so when the weather is nice and the temperature is hovering in the low 80's with a cool breeze against my face. I assume that the guys on the field make a pretty good living and are interested in delivering entertainment and a demonstration of their collective athletic skills to me and the other fans for 3 hours or so. But it also seems that I am encouraged to think about aspects of the game that have less to do with the physical ability necessary to score or prevent runs and more to do with personal characteristics of the players.

Don't get me wrong. Am I upset if a player has been shown to beat his wife or kids, has displayed unethical conduct or participated in illegal activities? You bet I am. They should know better. As has been written about many times previously, they ARE role models, or put a different way, they ARE in positions that TEACH SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO US. You can't wish that away or transform it with modern-day psychobabble. What is happening is that someone is trying to redefine what the "something important" is.

It also seems to me that there is a connection to our President, William Jefferson Clinton. How much do I need to know about what the President does both publicly and in his personal life? I voted for him because I thought he would do a better job than the other choices. But I also assumed that he would preserve the office of the President and continue my perception of an honorable office holder. He said he was just like me (like any American). But I don't think he and I are alike and I don't think that I should be able to do the things that have been suggested are true of him in my life.

But is that what is takes to be a baseball player, a baseball fan, a President of the United States.........

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